In 2013, Danny Mackey was hired as head coach of the newly formed Brooks Beasts Track Club in Seattle.
With years of experience as a competitive runner and a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Biomechanics, Danny’s earned the respect of his team with his knowledge of science and sport.
“I’m not a scientist; I majored in Econ,” joked Henry Wynne, a 1500m Brooks Beast. “The science stuff is Danny’s job, but I trust him enough to train hard and give my best.”
“When an athlete asks Danny why we’re doing something, it’s not just, ‘Because you’re told to.’ He knows exactly why we’re doing this and working on that,’” said Josh Kerr, a 1500m Brooks Beast. “It makes you much more confident.”
Danny’s training methods work on holistically improving his athletes so that come race day, they are the best version of themselves: strong, fast, passionate runners ready to win.
Throughout his coaching career, Danny’s noticed that many runners don’t implement strength training into their workouts. But he believes strength training is critical for professional runners for multiple reasons.
“The first thing strength training helps with is injury prevention,” Danny said. “Running is very hard on your body. So if there’s a weak link in the chain, it’ll come up at some point, and something will get hurt. But when you’re structurally stronger, you can handle an 8-mile tempo run like our team does.”
“The other main reason for strength training is that there is a direct performance benefit because you’re able to generate more power,” Danny said. “Every race comes down to a kick, the last centimeters, and being in the weight room helps you build strength to generate power to sprint.”
Before he turned professional and began training with Danny, Kerr didn’t regularly integrate strength training into his workouts. Now, after joining the team and implementing Danny’s advice, Kerr is convinced that strength training is crucial for professional runners.
“It really does make you feel more stable and stronger,” Kerr said. “It’s definitely a beneficial part of our program, and I think we have the lowest injury rate among the professional teams because of that strength program.”
“I encourage people to just start somewhere, even if you’re just in there for 10 minutes,” Danny said. “Anything will help.”
As mentioned earlier, races come down to who has the endurance and speed to give a little extra oomph during the final stretch. Altitude training helps professional athletes gain that edge above their competitors by increasing the efficiency of their run. *
For the Beasts this means heading to altitude camp in Albuquerque which is at an average elevation of 5, 312 feet above sea level.
“We usually head to altitude camp twice a year for like four weeks, and that’s enough time to gain the benefits,” Danny said. “Now, one of the simple benefits is gaining time in a hypoxic state which just means there’s less air available to breathe.”
Since air gets thinner and air pressure drops as your go higher, your body works harder for each breath you take.
“This causes stress in your body and an increase in red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout your body,” Danny said. “So when you go down to sea level to race, you have the ability to carry more oxygen, which should translate to being able to run faster.”
Train Because ______ .
Seeing the bigger picture is an important part of distance running, both during competition and during training. Danny has woven this idea into the Brooks Beast culture so that both he and the team remember why they run.
“The team is big on finding your narrative and what story you’re writing day-to-day,” Danny said. “When that’s happening, you can get more out of your body.”
Every runner has a reason why they run – to win, to feel good, to look good, etc. Danny is no exception.
“I run for a couple reasons, one is because I’m big on raw and simple,” Danny said. “You can run anywhere, and all you need is a pair of shoes and two articles of clothing, three if you include socks.”
“Another big reason I run is to challenge myself,” Danny said. “Having milestones is a basic human need, something to strive for and try to achieve. When I get home from a run, I’m proud, and no one can take that away from me.”
The last reason Danny gives for running is the mental health benefits.
“Running is a meditative thing for me,” Danny said. “When I’m running with no music, just breathing, I’m aware of what my body’s doing. I’m in a better state to be a better coach and a better friend. All of those other things happen because of running.”
Why do you run? Share your story on social media using #WhyIRun. To find out why the rest of the Brooks Beast team runs, check out the Run Like A Beast video series.
*It is important to note that without proper preparation altitude training can be dangerous, so be sure to consult professionals before engaging in activity at higher elevations.